Slowly Braised Lamb Ragu {+ Slow Cooker & Instant Pot Directions}

Lamb ragout recipe slow cooker

Boy oh boy… there is great convenience in store for us today and it is called Slowly Braised Lamb Ragu. If you’re like me, cold weather season makes you crave cozy and comforting meals… The kind of dish that feels like a hug in a bowl!

I’m pretty sure that slow-braised lamb ragout, tossed into a pile of rotating pappardelle pasta or tender gnocchi with tons of grated parm and a little cream is the very definition of huggable… You know?

A heavenly and comforting taste of Italy – Lamb ragout


stewed This braised lamb ragout, a recipe I’ve been tweaking and perfecting for years, is my version of the authentic ragout agnello (braised lamb) served in the northern Italian restaurant where I worked as a waiter during my post-college sabbatical.

Beautifully marbled lamb shoulder slowly boil with fresh herbs, plenty of garlic, tomatoes and red wine, until it melts succulently in the mouth. Mix lamb ragout in a pile of pasta or serve with soft gnocchi as pillows for the most cozy, quality Italian food at home.

And the best part? It’s the kind of food that’s fancy with a capital F, but it’s so easy to put together that it’s almost lazy. Braised Lamb Ragu is perfect for the most special occasions, like Christmas dinner or Easter, but it’s also pretty easy to do even on lazier Sunday afternoons when you don’t have much planned out beyond yoga pants and a Netflix marathon. (Trust me… I have!)


is one of my specialties, and this Slowly Braised Lamb Ragu has been enjoyed by thousands of PWWB readers over the years. We originally published this recipe in 2017 and are reviewing it today with some refreshed photographs and improved directions, including the slow cooker guide and instant cooker. I can’t wait for you to try it! ♡ Read on to learn more about this braised lamb Ragu, or jump right into the recipe and start cooking!

First things first: What is Lamb Ragu?

Before we jump into the nitty-gritty of this lamb ragout recipe, let’s talk about ragout for a second. What is ragu? Is it a tomato sauce, is it like marinara? Or is it a cream sauce? These were some of the most frequently asked questions from restaurant guests on my service days… So if you’re curious, you’re definitely not alone!

Ragu is a general term used to describe a rich Italian meat sauce cooked slowly. Ragout is plentiful, intensely tasty (on the edge of stew!), and is usually served with pasta, gnocchi or polenta. Perhaps, without even knowing it, you have enjoyed possibly the most famous ragout: the Bolognese!

So, while it usually involves slow-cooked tomatoes (similar to a marinara sauce), and is almost always finished with milk or heavy cream (like creamy pasta dishes), ragout is in its own category entirely. The common element of any ragout is the fact that the meat (or a meaty element, such as mushrooms or eggplant) is totally the star of the show.

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The beauty of ragout is that you can actually do anything you want it to be! I was introduced to ragu for the first time at the Italian restaurant I worked at for several years after college. One of our specialties was a rotating house ragu, which changed every week based on what the chefs were in the mood to cook and serve. We serve pork ragout, wild boar ragout, shredded duck ragout, vegetarian mushroom ragout, agnello… The slowly braised lamb ragout we are making today!

Key Ingredients for

Lamb Ragout

Aside from the fact that it’s incredibly rich and meaty, one of the reasons I love ragout so much is because it requires fairly simple ingredients, many of which are fridge and pantry staples. This lamb ragout recipe is no exception!

Note: Full list of ingredients and measurements provided on the recipe card, below.

Other cuts of lamb for lamb ragout: Due to the long cooking time

involved, avoid really lean cuts like lamb chops. You can also make this lamb ragout recipe with lamb cane (mmm!). If you prefer to use ground lamb, I suggest you model your ragout after my recipe for the best Bolognese.

Meal preparation tip


Almost all the practical preparation for this braised lamb ragout is cutting the soffritto. Chop the carrot, celery and onion in advance so you can jump straight into cooking! There’s still a little time on the stove, but reducing the active preparation time makes this lamb ragout the kind of thing you could do any afternoon.

How to make lamb ragout sauce: Cooking any braised ragout, including this

lamb ragout sauce

, is a fairly straightforward process. It’s time-consuming as the goal is to extract GREAT flavors from relatively humble ingredients, but it’s not difficult! A standard stew consists of 3 main steps: browning, deglazing and simmering.

Note: Complete recipe instructions with step-by-step photos provided on the prescription card, below

. First, brown the shoulder of lamb. Browning

the shoulder of lamb

serves 2 main purposes. First, it creates a beautiful crust, which blocks the juices inside the meat, preventing them from leaking as the lamb slowly cooks. This means that the lamb stays pleasant and juicy, and does not dry out while stewed. Secondly, as the meat browns, it leaves golden chunks at the bottom of the pan (affectionate is the French technical term), which is what creates the base flavor of the braised liquid.

To brown, simply add the lamb to a thick-bottomed pot and cook for a few minutes per side, until deeply browned. Pretty straightforward!

Next, brown the soffritto:

When I say brown, I mean brown. Many of the ragout and bolognese recipes I’ve read over the years call for simply softening the aromatics… and I couldn’t disagree more with them! The soffritto is the basis of the whole sauce. Taking an extra 10 minutes to make sure they brown deeply adds a lot of flavor to the ragu. Now is not the time for shortcuts!

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Then, deglaze and build: “Deglaze”

is an elegant language to add some liquid, in this case, wine and meat broth, to the pot. The steam created when the wine reaches the bottom of the hot pan helps release the tasty golden pieces (fond) that formed at the bottom of the pot throughout the browning process.

Build the lamb ragout sauce, adding the remaining ingredients: fresh herbs, bay leaf, tomatoes, and a parmesan crust if you want to take the flavor to the next level. Instead of taking the time to chop all the herbs, I prefer to leave them whole, tying them with a kitchen string, which makes them easy to remove from lamb ragout before serving.


finally – stew!

Add the golden lamb back to the Dutch oven and boil everything. Once boiled, cover the pot and put it in the oven to stew until the lamb melts tenderly. You can also simmer the ragout on the stove. I prefer to use my oven for braised dishes; It’s nice not to have to worry about an open and unattended flame for such a long period of time!

How long to cook lamb ragout?

This lamb ragout is stewed for 2 – 2 1/2 hours until the lamb shoulder is very tender and falls apart easily. Your house will smell like Italian sky!

Alternative cooking methods


Depending on how much time you have or how practical you’d like the cooking process to be, you can easily adapt this braised lamb ragout for a couple of commonly loved appliances:

  • Can I make lamb ragout in a slow cooker? Yes, absolutely! I suggest browning the lamb shoulder and soffritto on the stove to develop those rich flavors, then you can stew the sauce slowly in a slow cooker or slow cooker. Full slow cooker instructions are in the Recipe Notes below.
  • Can I make lamb ragout in an instant pot? Another one does! Of all the methods, the instant pot or an electric pressure cooker is definitely my least favorite because lamb ragout sauce doesn’t reach the same rich flavor depth since the cooking time is much faster… But it will work! Full Instant Pot instructions are also found in the recipe notes, below.

And finally, the best part: serving lamb ragout stewed with pappardelle (or gnocchi!):

One of the secrets to creating a restaurant-quality pasta dish at home is to finish the pasta and sauce together just before serving. The pasta should always be cooked with the sauce for a couple of minutes, which helps the two components come together as a single dish. This is exactly how it’s done in restaurants: if you’ve ever wondered why your pasta isn’t as amazing as in a good Italian restaurant, it’s probably because you’re skipping this step!

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Lamb Ragu pappardelle in a small pan on top of a light blue surface. A wooden spoon is located in the pasta. Next to the pan are some fresh herbs.

To properly finish your braised lamb ragout, add pasta al dente or prepared gnocchi directly into the pot with the ragout sauce, mixing to combine to combine . Use some thick cream and parmesan to bind everything together, then let it simmer for a couple of minutes. The starch in pasta or gnocchi will absorb some of the ragout sauce, fusing it together as a cohesive dish.

If your lamb paste

feels a little thick, loosen up with some starchy pasta water. Similarly, it feels too loose, thicken it with an additional grated parm.

What is the best pasta to serve with lamb ragout?

Generally speaking, heavier sauces are best served with wider noodles. That’s why you’ll commonly see lamb ragout served with pappardelle. Pappardelle is my top pick for ragu, but bucatini (tubular spaghetti) is also amazing.

If you prefer to serve with a short noodle, try rigatoni; its tubular shape captures bits and pieces of lamb ragout for even more delicious pasta bites. Want to double comfort? Serve your lamb ragout with gnocchi or spoon it on a bed of creamy polenta.

Honestly, you can’t go wrong here… Rich and abundant braised

lamb ragout for victory!

I can’t wait for you to try this stewed lamb ragout recipe. It’s pure homemade Italian food, and I know you’ll love it as much as we do.

If you try, be sure to let me know!: Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also take a photo and tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing and seeing your PWWB creations! Happy cooking! ♡

Jess Larson’s Printed Recipe, Play Good with Butter | Photograph by Eat Love Eat

More classic Italian recipes

to try…

  • Obsessed with ragu? Be sure to try this one! Pork ragout braised slowly
  • Another classic: PWWB’s best Bolognese, and put it into practice in this Bolognese lasagna
  • Or try a lightened version: Healthier turkey bolognese
  • Quick and easy: 5-ingredient Pomodoro sauce
  • Perfect for weeknights: 20-minute spicy Italian sausage and pepper paste
  • An Italian-American staple: Marsala
  • Pasta Stewed to perfection! Lamb ragout slowly stewed with gnocchi magic
  • Instant Pot: Instant chicken cacciatore
  • A classic, with a twist! Gnocchi all’Amatriciana
  • All PWWB pasta recipes

  • All Italian recipes from PWWB

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Don’t forget to set this lamb ragout recipe slowly stewed for later!!! lamb ragout sauce braised slowly. Lamb shoulder is slowly stewed with onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes and many hardy herbs to make the slowly braised lamb ragout sauce perfect and comforting. It's perfect to serve with gnocchi, polenta or any pasta of your choice for the coziest winter dinner! #playswellwithbutter #lambrecipe #braisedlamb #lambragu #ragusauce #comfortfood

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